The marketing cloud industry is getting more crowded with new companies competing for the number one spot. Even industry behemoths find it difficult to stand out as the alpha. Progress in the last two years to distance themselves from competitors has been nominal, at best. So, understanding who’s who in this proverbial ‘Game of Thrones’ can be a bit daunting.
When selecting a platform, it is important to consider features and integration timeframes during implementation. A majority (54%) of marketing influencers point to ease of implementation as an important evaluation criteria for selecting a marketing automation system.
This article is an attempt to identify the key players involved, in no particular order – keep in mind it has a lot of beefy info; so let’s go!
Emarsys is a black box platform that offers predefined features in both marketing automation and analytics. Their pricing is based on the number of contacts. It only needs to be set up once during the initial integration, then offers an easy-to-use interface for customers to navigate analyses and to create simple marketing campaigns. It has several widgets for managing emails with clear, robust reporting. The recommendation engine, scarab, is also a plus. Emarsys comes at a cost, all functionalities can only be customised once. For this reason, it can take three months to integrate. Changes are possible, but require hefty fees, making exploration of new and advanced use-cases difficult. Other than recommendations, Emarsys has no marketing channel – such as web-layers or browser push notifications – for website interaction with customers. Lastly, it offers only basic analyses and little room for obtaining detailed insight other than downloading data sets into Excel.
SalesManago is also a black box platform that offers a variety of Channels. With a focus on small and medium businesses, their pricing is also based on the total number of contacts. As with Emarsys, each of its features are created specifically for each use-case. An automation builder with a visual email builder is included. It also offers advanced integration with social platforms, making it possible to schedule posts on Facebook or even generate leads via the Facebook form. As with all black-box solutions, the initial set-up takes time. Since they develop customised features for each use-case from scratch, it offers very little flexibility. The same is true for A/B testing, which must be created for every feature. As a result, A/B-testing is absent in recommendations and push notifications. Lastly, creating banners is not flexible, leaving marketers with very simple banners. Any advanced banner set-up requires involving IT.
IBM relies on brand recognition and financial power to enter new industries and claim its share and marketing automation was no exception. IBM’s marketing cloud is based on Silverpop, a cloud-based platform. Adopting the strategy to either acquire a new venture or create a partnership for each new feature (even functions like ideal email time), IBM is incredibly versatile. The emailing is a very strong feature, enabling customers to use automatic A/B evaluation with the better performing email sent. IBM Watson and SPSS create a very strong foundation for machine learning, data mining or predictive analysis. IBM’s biggest weakness is a result of its strength; by merging several ventures, it is very inflexible and a pain to integrate in terms of complexity, time and cost. One component of the package is dedicated to connecting data from other components. It does not offer web layers, banners or website adjustment nor offer web browser push notifications.
Oracle, like all big companies, acquired several companies to create a marketing cloud. Oracle has been very quick to combine several platforms to enter the segment of marketing automation with interesting capabilities. Eloqua seems a good choice for B2B companies. Responsys offers a canvas for creating marketing campaigns. The designer offers the industry standard. On top of typical channels, such as SMS, push and email, Oracle has a content management platform which helps with scheduling campaign and assigning responsibilities. Perhaps the strongest part of Oracle is the connection between content management and social marketing which offers management of all social networks from the platform. A/B testing combined with predictive analyses when compared to other clouds is above par. However, as with all solutions combining several platforms, integrating Oracle takes time and money and user friendliness is questionable; each of the six different programs has its own unique interface. The analytics portion is a black box, each model has its own dashboard with evaluation. In terms of channels, Oracle does not offer any web-layers or recommendations.
The Salesforce marketing cloud started in 2000, with its growth partly fuelled by acquisitions. It has a strong presence in the cloud industry, essentially thanks to offering an integrated CRM covering sales, service, marketing and analytics. Despite being a mix of several products, all the features are accessible from one program. Salesforce has very strong content creation and connection with social platforms. Users can track customers’ reactions across the web and create synchronised campaigns across social networks or ads. As with all composite tools resulting from acquisitions, implementation is a lengthy, costly and a complex process. Salesforce does not offer AB-testing or a way to establish how customers react to different campaigns. The only web interference offered is a recommendations engine, and it can also be used in emails. Most analyses are predefined for every studio and offer only limited customisation.
Adobe is currently recognised as the market leader in the marketing cloud industry; composed of several acquisitions, most prominently Omniture in 2009. With a clear vision stemming from their understanding of their users (marketers), Adobe’s strengths are mainly in content creation. Marketers are able to easily generate content (with easy integration in Photoshop, Premiere Illustrator…) and utilise in apps automation. The platform has robust connections with social media, allowing users to track and schedule all online activities. Adobe is the only marketing cloud to focus on TV as a channel. Lastly, it is a great tool for A/B-testing website UI. The orchestration or canvas for creating campaigns and segments is rather simple. Similar to platforms by other giants, integration is very complex. One module, not included in the basic package, is needed to evaluate campaigns. Furthermore, Adobe does not seem to be entering the AI or deeper prediction fields and is not very data-focused.
London-based Exponea’s platform was not created from several parts, it is an integrated solution which includes all functionalities. Developed as a single product from the ground up, the features are easy to implement and use. The platform offers a combination of online channels for personalising UI. Real-time automation and design features have easy-to-use visual builders. It separates itself with strong data manipulation features which enhance typical segmentations, customisable analytical reports. Initial integration can take one hour, operational in three weeks (average) and does not require a client-side IT department for ongoing support and maintenance. However, the granular segmentation and analytical features can be difficult for the novice to interpret. When compared to Salesforce, it does not offer social planning for posts or a visual builder for creating posts for various social networks. The only social connection they offer is a connection with Facebook and Google in the form of audiences and downloading the data for further evaluation.
Zaius is built on the premise that a repeated purchase is the most valuable (it increases the overall value of customer due to a higher probability of creating loyalty), Zaius uses data from a wide range of sources to target customers via several channels to create engagement. Zaius offers actionable, easy-to-use and read pre-built dashboards. Furthermore, it allows for integration with key platforms for retargeting and further communication. Focusing on repeated purchase, Zaius tends to ignore web personalisation and conversion via special offers in the form of web-layers and UI testing. Furthermore, Zaius does not offer a canvas builder, effectively ruling out more complex campaigns. Lastly, the analytics part is mainly pre-built and does not support machine learning or AI, which might become a problem in the future.
It is evident throughout the industry that predictive/artificial intelligence are the current trends. In the coming years, the full scope of big data will not be limited to giants like Facebook and Google, rather much more accessible and affordable to all.
For serious marketers to stay competitive, it will be essential to tap into these resources.
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